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CLS, ADF attorneys secure victory in Colo. student funding case

10th Circuit declares unconstitutional state’s determination that Christian university “too religious” for student aid

DENVER — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit held Wednesday that Colorado officials violated the U.S. Constitution by excluding Colorado Christian University and its students from state tuition assistance programs on the ground that the school is “pervasively sectarian.” Attorneys with the Christian Legal Society and the Alliance Defense Fund are on the legal team representing CCU.

“Christian schools should not be discriminated against because of their beliefs. Although Colorado argued that the Constitution gives governments a green light to discriminate against religion in the funding context, the 10th Circuit placed a stop sign in their path. The court affirmed that such discrimination is virtually never allowed,” said CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom Director Gregory S. Baylor.

“Religious discrimination has no place under the First Amendment, and the court rightly struck down this discriminatory law,” added ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb.

Colorado Christian University, a four-year, Christian liberal arts university, applied to participate in Colorado’s state-funded student financial aid programs in September 2003. The Colorado Commission on Higher Education denied the application in November 2004 on the sole ground that the school was “pervasively sectarian.”

Attorneys with CLS; ADF; and Rothgerber, Johnson & Lyons filed a lawsuit in federal court in December 2004 challenging the exclusion. In May 2007, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of state officials, and CCU appealed. The 10th Circuit’s ruling reversing the district court decision means that students desiring to attend Colorado Christian University no longer have to forfeit student aid.

“Obviously, we’re delighted with the good outcome for CCU and its students,” said Eric Hall, a partner with Rothgerber, Johnson & Lyons in Colorado Springs. “In addition, we are pleased with the court’s strong and well-reasoned opinion, which reaffirms many long-standing religious liberty principles. This decision is likely to be cited often by other courts when religious liberty issues like these are at stake.”

Also representing CCU in the case was Denver attorney Thomas N. Scheffel. 
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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Gregory S. Baylor
Gregory S. Baylor
Senior Counsel, Director of the Center for Religious Schools
Gregory S. Baylor serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is the director of the Center for Religious Schools and senior counsel with the Center for Public Policy.